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Task Force On Gender Equity In Education
Compiled by Lisa Plimpton, Mitchell Institute
Preliminary Draft, March 2004
Bae, Yupin, Susan Choy, Claire Geddes, Jennifer Sable, and Thomas Snyder (2000). Trends in Educational Equity of Girls & Women . U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2000-030.
Bradburn, Ellen M. and C. Dennis Carroll (November 2002). Short-Term Enrollment in Postsecondary Education: Student Background and Institutional Differences in Reasons for Early Departure, 1996-1998. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2003-153.
This study of a national sample of college students looked at students who left college within the first three years (without completing a degree) and did not find a statistically significant gender difference in persistence.
Burton , Nancy , Charles Lewis, and Nancy Robertson (1988). Sex Differences in SAT Scores . Princeton , NJ : The College Board.
This study found that the difference between average male and female SAT scores diminished after adjusting for background differences.
The College Board (2003). 2003 College-Bound Seniors: A Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton , NJ .
Mean SAT Scores for College-Bound Seniors
As shown above, average SAT scores for college-bound high school seniors are consistently higher for male than for female students. Over the past twenty years, the gender gap in verbal scores has not changed much, but the math gender gap has gotten smaller. 54% of 2003 SAT test takers in the U.S. -and 53% in Maine -were females. The majority of SAT test-takers have been women since the early 1970s.
Eliot, Lisa (1999). What's Going on in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. New York : Bantam Books.
Girls tend to score higher than boys on verbal IQ tests and measures of reading, writing, associative memory, and perceptual speed. Boys tend to score higher on nonverbal IQ tests, specific spatial tasks, and math, science, and mechanical ability tests. These differences are measurable but small (e.g., a few IQ points). Also, males perform better than females on certain language tasks, such as verbal analogies, and females are better than males at certain mathematical/spatial tasks, such as numerical calculations and location memory.
A more striking difference between the sexes is that, for most mental abilities, the range of performance is noticeably wider for males than for females. Because of this greater variance, boys outnumber girls both among the top achievers in mathematics as well as among groups identified as "learning disabled."
Men have 8% more brain mass than women, even after controlling for differences in height and body mass. However, women's brains are better organized for language; women use their brains more symmetrically. These differences are not solely attributable to biology: they are partly a product of differences in experience, such as play choices in childhood that promote different kinds of brain development.
Hormones play a role in sex differences in intelligence. Estrogen promotes verbal articulation, fine motor control and perceptual speed, and depresses spatial analysis and deductive reasoning. Testosterone is associated with better spatial skill, such as mental rotation, direction sense, and detecting embedded geometric. In fact, moderate testosterone levels-on the high end of testosterone production for women but the low end for men-are optimal for spatial intelligence.
While gender differences emerge before birth, sex differences in intelligence become more pronounced after puberty. "Adolescents who go through puberty earlier tend to be more verbally gifted, while those who mature later tend to excel at spatial skills." Boys tend to go through puberty about a year later than girls.
King, Jacqueline E. (2000). Gender Equity in Higher Education: Are Male Students at a Disadvantage? Washington , DC : American Council on Education Center for Policy Analysis.
This research synthesis concluded that the higher education gender gap is primarily a phenomenon among racial and ethnic minority and low-income males, concluding: "There is little evidence to suggest that white, middle-class males are falling behind their female peers."
Mortenson, Tom (September 2003). "Earned Degrees Conferred by Gender 1870 to 2001," Postsecondary Education Opportunity Number 135.
Mortenson, Tom (August 2003). Fact Sheet: What's Wrong with the Guys? Washington DC : The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.
Between 1967 and 2000, the proportion of female high school graduates aged 18 to 24 enrolled in college increased by 20.5 percentage points. The corresponding proportion of males decreased by 3.8 percentage points.
In 2002, the college continuation rate of recent high school graduates was 68% for females and 62% for males. (The female rate surpassed the male rate in 1991.)
"College is a better economic investment for men than it is for women." A bachelor's degree adds about $1.27 million to the average man's lifetime income, compared with $650,000 for the average female.
Mortenson, Tom (July 2003). "Gender Differences in Time Use of College Freshmen 1987 to 2002," Postsecondary Education Opportunity Number 133.
Pollack, William (1998). Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. New York : Random House.
Boys tend to be "high-energy learners" who learn better by visualizing concepts and physically move around. Many boys learn best by engaging in action-oriented tasks rather than watching or listening (a learning style for which girls tend to be better suited).
Schools and school systems should develop innovative approaches to address boys' specific needs. Suggestions include:
Use teaching methods that work well for boys: hands-on learning, problem-solving activities, and multimedia teaching materials.
Experiment with same-sex classes.
Hire more male teachers.
Set up mentoring programs.
Sum, Andrew, Neeta Fogg, Paul Harrington et al. (May 2003). The Growing Gender Gaps in College Enrollment and Degree Attainment in the U.S. and Their Potential Economic and Social Consequences. Washington DC : The Business Roundtable.
This study finds that in 2000, there were 154 women for every 100 men enrolled in Maine 's degree-granting institutions, the greatest gender gap of any state.
Swanson, Christopher B. (2004). Who Graduates? Who Doesn't? A Statistical Portrait of Public High School Graduation, Class of 2001 . Washington DC : The Urban Institute, Education Policy Center .
This study finds a "substantial and systematic gender gap" in high school graduation rates. Nationally, the high school graduation rate in 2001 was 72% for female students and 64% for males. In Maine , 74% of female students graduated, compared with 67% of males.
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